Slapout: Chapter 03

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.


Chapter 03

The sounds of Ben working filled the back of the garage. It had been a long hot day for Gage as he’d dealt with different calls, but he couldn’t imagine being in the shop with only fans to deal with the heat. However, even with the struggles, he knew Ben enjoyed his work as much as Gage liked his.

“God damn it!” Ben said as he banged the wrench against the farm truck he was trying to get running again. Despite the frustration his husband struggled to cope with, Gage chuckled.

For a moment, the fans made the only sound in the stifling garage. Ben blew out the breath he’d been holding.

“Gage. I hope that’s you.”

He stepped around the tool chest and found Ben laying on the creeper he’d been using to get under the truck. The first thing he noticed was the gray-green shirt with ‘BEN’ stitched across the pocket was soaked with sweat. In some places there were patterns of salt where the heat had dried the perspiration into the fabric. Ben’s appearance was enough for him to lose his joking demeanor and become concerned with Ben’s well being.

“Come on, babe. Let’s go home so you can clean up. Remember, we invited friends over for a cookout. Before they show up, you need to shower and get a little rest.”

From his expression, Ben’s resolve weakened, but he still made a weak argument. “I told Eli I’d have the truck working tomorrow.”

“Eli’s coming to the picnic tonight so he won’t expect you to work late to get it running.”

Ben wore a blank expression as a gust of dry hot wind swirled around them and sent bits of sand to pepper their skin. Once the breeze subsided he looked even less coherent and Gage used the husband card.

He took Ben by the arm and led him to the office. “Get stuff straightened up and I’ll go clean the shop.” He walked over to the ancient pop-machine and hauled out a bottle floating in the ice laden water. He found one of the old-style glass bottles Ben insisted on stocking it with, and handed it to Ben. “Here, this’ll help cool you down.”

Gage decided Ben needed something more than just a cold drink and ducked back into the garage. He located the bin of clean rags, grabbed a few and returned to the office a second later. Without a word to deal with Ben’s silent questions, he dunked the squares of cloth into the icy slush. As he swished them through the water, he twisted to address Ben. “Sit down over there. These will cool you down.”

Ben eased himself into one of the red vinyl chairs and locked a suspicious eye on Gage. He lifted the dripping towels and draped them across Ben’s neck and shoulders. The resulting yelp left Gage laughing.

“Holy shit,” Ben said. “That’s cold as hell!”

Gage laughed as he disappeared into the garage to put it back into the orderly condition Ben liked. He placed the last wrench into its designated drawer before he heard Ben rustled around. It didn’t take long before Gage finished putting things into order. He hung the push broom in its place and went to see how Ben was doing.

He walked in to find Ben filing away the last pieces of paperwork. But he smiled to see the wet cloth still where he’d put it. After finishing the final count for the day, Ben slid the register drawer into the wall safe he’d had installed a few years ago. He closed the heavy metal door and spun the dial before turning to Gage.

“You were right. It’s time to head to the house. I’m beat,” Ben said.

Gage pulled him close and slipped him a small kiss. “Let’s get home. You can wash while I get the sides finished and light the grill.”

Ben smiled, rested his hand on the back of Gage’s neck and gave him an affectionate squeeze. “Sounds like a great plan. Let’s get our asses in gear.”


The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

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